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Jimmy Butler vows to bring Heat back to NBA Finals in 2021

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler said he promised team president Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra that he would win a championship for the franchise, and he plans to accomplish that goal in 2021. Photo by Erik S. Lesser/EPA-EFE
Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler said he promised team president Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra that he would win a championship for the franchise, and he plans to accomplish that goal in 2021. Photo by Erik S. Lesser/EPA-EFE

Oct. 12 (UPI) -- Jimmy Butler said he failed to fulfill his promise to bring a championship to Miami Heat president Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra, but he plans to bring the team back to the NBA Finals in 2021.

Tears and embraces filled the Heat locker room after the Game 6 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex inside the Walt Disney World Resort.

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Butler said Heat players also told each other that they will "be back" on the league's grandest stage after the 4-2 series loss.

"This is what my team needed me to do, the organization asked of me," Butler told reporters Sunday. "I told them that I would win them one and I didn't hold up my end of the bargain, so that means I have to do it next year.

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"I told [Heat president] Pat [Riley], I told 'Spo' [coach Erik Spoelstra] I'm here to win one. I didn't do my job, so moving forward, I got to hold up my end of the bargain."

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Butler averaged 26.2 points, 9.8 assists and 8.3 rebounds per game in the NBA Finals. He had 34 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists and five steals to lead the Heat to a win in Game 5 to force a Game 6.

"I didn't win, so none of the stats matter," Butler said. "We don't play for stats here. We don't play for anything else except for the win.

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"I didn't do that. I didn't do my job. I'll be better, along with everybody else. I'll be better coming back. You sulk on this because of what could have been, but it didn't happen. We didn't win and that's what you leave this at."

Butler joined the Heat in July of 2019 as part of a four-team trade. The five-time All-Star teamed up with Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic, Tyler Herro and a cluster of role players and sharpshooters this season to advance through the NBA playoffs as the No. 5 seed.

The climb through the postseason started with a win over the No. 4 Indiana Pacers. The Heat then knocked off the No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks and then beat the No. 3 Boston Celtics to advance to the NBA Finals.

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The Heat faced more adversity once they reached the finals when Adebayo and Dragic suffered injuries. Adebayo missed two games before he returned from a neck injury. Dragic missed four games due to a foot injury before he returned to a limited role in Game 6.

Spoelstra said there is "no way" Dragic should have played in Game 6. The veteran guard sent text messages to the coach after his Game 1 injury and asked for the coach to not "give up" on him. He also promised to return from the injury. Trainers told Spoelstra that Dragic had "no chance" to return.

"He was basically begging everyone of us the last three games just to give him a chance," Spoelstra said. "That just shows you his character and how much he wants to give, too. Not for himself, he's already proved himself.

"He's one of the most decorated players in this game, but he wanted to do it for his teammates and he's another one of those special human beings that I'm just honored that I've been able to coach him and develop that kind of relationship with him over the years."

Dragic is one of several Heat players set to become a free agent this off-season. Butler is signed through 2021-2022, but has a player option the next season.

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Solomon Hill, Meyers Leonard, Jae Crowder and Derrick Jones are among the other Heat players set to enter free agency. Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn also have non-guaranteed contracts next season.

The NBA has plans for a Nov. 18 NBA Draft, but has not announced dates for the start of free agency or the off-season signing period.

"This season has been a tremendous season for us," Dragic said. We had a lot of bonds together. We go through good times, bad times, but we always stay together. And I think that that's something that it's really rare to find, and I love this team. I love all of those guys.

"[Nobody] is selfish. Everybody wants to do the right thing. And all the moments on the floor, off the floor, especially here in the bubble to spend with them for three months and to hang out, it was something that I'm going to cherish for the rest of my life. [I] can't wait to get back."

Moments from LeBron James' career

St. Vincent-St. Mary High School senior LeBron James (L) drives around a Zanesvuille defender in Akron, Ohio, on February 14, 2003. James is expected to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. A couple months later, the Cleveland Cavaliers coach was suspended because James worked out with the team before he graduated from high school. Photo by Tom Cammett/UPI | License Photo

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